State of invincibility enabled by cheat code / FRI 6-5-20 / Quaint stationery shop item / Like a very cold night idiomatically / What recycling code 40 is used for / Old Eur domain

Friday, June 5, 2020

Constructor: John Wrenholt

Relative difficulty: Challenging (nearly 2x avg)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SCOW (52D: Garbage disposal unit)
a large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk material (such as ore, sand, or refuse) (
• • •

Having trouble concentrating on the details of the puzzle tonight since a morally rotten and sadistic police culture is currently gleefully bludgeoning unarmed people all over the country but I'll see what I can do. This was very much a Saturday puzzle, which is irritating. It was hard even for a Saturday (for me). I got completely and utterly stuck. Twice. This hardly ever happens, and certainly not on a Friday. The grid looks OK, I guess, but the cluing was irritatingly tough and/or off. Seriously, the whole NW was empty despite my having both lead-in answers (INKBOTTLE and SEAHORSE). I eventually guessed SIC (4D: Editorial insertion), but even then ... I don't associate SAUNAs with skiing, I don't know about skateboard parts (?), AGAIN is absurd (and I *have* a personal trainer...) (14A: Exhortation from a personal trainer). I thought maybe it was DIG IN (??). Yuck to struggle in such a confined space. And I had very similar though slightly less severe issues in the SW, where NSFW is attributed to a ... trailer? (62A: Trailer advisory) ... and the PUSH PIN clue is beyond hard (38D: Colorful spot on a map) and what the actual hell is a POODLE CUT (55A: Hairdo famously sported by Lucille Ball) ("famously"?). The expression HIS NIBS makes my skin crawl (50A: Mr. High-and-Mighty). I can't imagine using it, I hate hearing it, and I don't think I even know what it means, really. SCOW clue, superhard. The recycling code (??) for STEEL. I just couldn't follow any of this. Whatever sense of fun or entertainment the clue writers had, I did not share. I liked TRAIL BOSS and very little else about this thing (11D: Cattle drive leader).

THREE DOG on its own is idiotic (45A: Like a very cold night, idiomatically). Also, literally no one calls a "cold night" that. No! It's a band. THREE DOG ... just sitting there ... on its own. That's nonsense. BEAR is a [Direction word] sure I guess in the sense that if you give someone directions you might tell them to "BEAR right" but ugh over and over with this Trying Too Hard to be hard instead of fun. That "seasonal rut" clue on STAG, same issue. AIRALERT meant nothing to me. DEMOLITIONIST fit in BALLOON ARTIST's spot (37A: One whose work is always blowing up?). FOGY looks so dumb in print, my god. I thought it was an -IE word but FOGIE ... also looks kinda dumb. Had FRONT LAWN before FRONT YARD, so that (really) hurt (18A: Spot for a campaign sign). LHASA crossing DHAKA? A miniature crosswordese geography conference, cool (not cool). The grid design is part of the problem. When you try to make a grid with lots of short stuff difficult, ugh, disaster. It's a 70-worder but it feels much higher because of the choppiness of the grid and the attendant flood of 3-4-5-letter answers. I guarantee you I finish the Saturday puzzle faster than this (it's a Doug Peterson puzzle, I hear, so I know it will be good...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:04 AM  

Once again, I learned something new from doing the crossword. I have never before seen FOGY, only “fogey”. So now I will insist that others refer to me as an “ye olde fogy” instead of an “old fogey”.

On second thought, does that make me sound older and fogier? Oh, who cares. Just get off my lawn.

Frantic Sloth 12:07 AM  

Geez Loueez! Misdirects, "clever"clueing, and just a whole bunch of WTFedness made this an ice BATH in the face compared to Thursday's rompapalooza.
I usually need an Agard for this effect, but howdy-do and please don't hurt me, Mr. Wrenholt!

Oops - too late! Hope Alfie makes another appearance today because I need me some "kitten heals".

Who says USH? Short of a slurring sot using first person plural, I mean. Who says that?

Wonder what THREEDOG Night song will be making an appearance here...This one seems apt.

I've revised my rating scale to reflect both difficulty (🧠) and fun (🎉) levels, which don't always agree. Still based on a range from 0 to 5.
🎉🎉🎉 (only because I was able to finish sans "cheats"...surprisingly.)

GHarris 12:13 AM  

Holy cow! Found it relatively easy. Knew things I didn’t know I knew. (Three dog night) Like Rex, I had front lawn before yard. Though I never heard of either I had God Code before God Mode. How the heck is Grant a 50s president?

JOHN X 12:16 AM  

Ha ha this puzzle was great!

Now this was a tough puzzle, a real NY Times puzzle. I love a challenge; I can take some punches (and not cry about it) and then get in there and get the job done.

NW and NE were my big hold-outs, especially because I had FRONTlAwn in there for a while. But I appreciate when I have to go in and strip something out - that means it was a well done puzzle and it fooled me.


jrstocker 12:16 AM  

Yeah, this played unbelievably hard as a Friday for me too. I sat there for minutes looking for my last error...had HISNOBS down, thought maybe they were throwing some Cribbage terminology at me until I realized LOL as the cross didn't make a ton of sense.

Brian 12:17 AM  

Average plus 20% not so challenging
Lhasa crosses Dhaka boo

GHarris 12:21 AM  

Okay, maybe it refers to his age st the time of his election

Melrose 12:28 AM  

Nice cat, Rex. May you live happily together.

I liked this. Had so much trouble getting started that I was sure I wouldn't finish, but it gradually came together and in the end I enjoyed the sense of victory.

astrotrav 12:44 AM  

Thursday's puzzle felt like a Tuesday. This felt like, ugh, I don't know what. BASSI? Really? I would have never guessed that in a million years. I had "iso" instead of BCE, assuming it was talking about dating, not dates. Who could possibly be expected to know the recycling code for STEEL? I guessed glass but that didn't work. Like Rex I had demolitionist at first. Crossing DHAKA and LHASA was Natickish. WILLIAM, THREEDOG, and GODMODE were highlights, but everything else was too much to overcome and I DNFed.

Anoa Bob 12:45 AM  

Started out not liking this puzzle a whole lot, what with stuff like INK BOTTLE (Was the INK green?), AIR ALERT (What the heck is that? "Warning! AIR has been detected in the immediate area. Seek shelter immediately!") and PASSENGER VANS (major league POC there), but then a BALLOON ARTIST showed up and turned a THREE DOG POODLE CUT into a SEA HORSE, and I was won over.

Surprised HIS NIBS balked at THREE DOG. When you need THREE DOGs to sleep with you to avoid freezing to death, that's one cold night.

[Commenter gets alert that one of the Kardashians has been seen wearing ass-less leather chaps and DASHES OFF to pursue that story.]

jae 12:57 AM  

Medium-tough. It would have been medium if I hadn’t held on to FRONTlawn for way too many nanoseconds. Solid but not very sparkly, liked it.

Azzurro 1:00 AM  

I got stuck in the NW as well, trying to cross MOTHS with OGAIN and then convincing myself there was some gimmick about dropping letters (no pain no gain maybe?). I found my mistake before too long and ended up finishing well below my Friday average, so I’m surprised Rex struggled. Then again, with all the current strife, it’s easy to be distracted.

LenFuego 1:07 AM  

HAR? I mean, come on. HAR?

gpstreet 1:42 AM  

Half my normal time. Everything HIS NIBS complained about, clicked for me. Recall buying Tracker TRUCKs for my skateboard in the 70’s, and the reminder about “Little Miss Sunshine” brought back a smile. Throw in content that spans from Lucille Ball to NSFW, and what’s not to love?

chefwen 2:53 AM  

Mom always called my big brother HIS NIBS as he was always demanding something, but she said it affectionately.

Started out on the slow side, but picked up speed after puzzle guy helped me with BETO, SCOW and FRONT lawn, which I later corrected to YARD. it’s amazing how a couple of extra letters filled in suddenly opens up new avenues. Finished rapidly with a little help from my friend.

I was a tad bit disappointed with Thursday’s offering, this helped restore my crossword faith.

Frantic Sloth 2:57 AM  

@GHarris Grant is the dead pres on the $50 bill.

Ann Howell 4:25 AM  

I also have a brother who is known affectionately as "His Nibs" in the family, so didn't mind that one. But it was a real struggle today (which is expected for a Friday, but still!). The NW corner was blank for ages... The "poodle cut" answer was terrible - Lucille Ball had curly red hair that was swept into an updo, not cut like a poodle's! This was one of those puzzles that felt good to finish, but much like a tough workout was not very pleasant in the doing!

Joe Dipinto 5:39 AM  

Where is Alfie? We demand to see Alfie.

Now come on, that clue for is ridiculous. You can't have him in the puzzle without the punctuation, you just can't. WILLIAM is not his name. So clue it with Shakespeare or Shatner or the Conqueror or whoever. "...writes his name with four dots" – sheesh.

I have never in my life heard of HIS NIBS. I cannot believe it's really a thing.

BALLOON ARTIST reminded me of this guy who invades subway cars in NYC and makes balloon creations for unsuspecting, and uninterested, passengers. He's never offered to make me one, I wonder why.

I think this would have to be the Three Dog Night song for the week. (A little simplistic, but it has an interesting history, having been written in 1954 in response to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.)

Lewis 6:29 AM  
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Lewis 6:41 AM  
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Anonymous 6:44 AM  

Please explain the “Grant” answer.

mooretep 6:52 AM  

Frantic Sloth at 12:07 am.

As far as a Three Dog Night song, I would have picked this one:

Thought the Sinead O'Conner song was appropriate.

Oh yeah, the puzzle. I liked it.
All these complaints about a Wednesday on a Thursday or a Saturday on a Friday.
I think it's just a wheelhouse perspective.
I felt that the spectrum of puzzle progression this week was just fine.

Lewis 6:53 AM  

The two best things I learned were the origin of the phrase "three dog night" and the expression HIS NIBS. I like the latter so much -- it just sounds so right for what it is -- that I will certainly use it at least once more today and earn a "tada!".

The NW was a BEAR for me, truly gave me fits, until my inner Solving Saint threw me BATHS.

Lovely clues for COST (simple and clever misdirect, and never been used before in the NYT), EGG, GRANT, and PUSHPIN.

My favorite cross touches on a fantasy of mine taking place a half year from now, that of HIS NIBS and DASHES OFF.

John, this was a grab bag of experience and I loved it. Thank you, sir!

Sioux Falls 7:04 AM  

@Anonymous Grant is the president on the $50 bill..... hence 50s president

mooretep 7:07 AM  

Anonymous @ 6:44
$50 bill.
Great clue.

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

Grant is on the $50 bill.

Small Town Blogger 7:16 AM  

$50 bill

kitshef 7:17 AM  

One of those puzzles where you look at a clue and know you will never, ever know what goes there. But you plug away and the crosses come in and lo and behold, you are done. This was keyed just right for a Friday.

Thought photography for 37A. BALLOON ARTIST was a nice surprise.

Love the expression HIS NIBS, although the usage didn’t feel quite right to me. I normally hear HIS NIBS to refer to small child, who must be catered to no matter what else you thought you were going to do.

pabloinnh 7:21 AM  

So for OFL, clues that are "irritatingly tough and/or off" are "clues for answers that I can't fill in instantly". Awww. I'm with John X on this one, just loved it. Took some work but then stuff showed up I hadn't heard in years and there it was_TRUCK for a skateboard part, POODLECUT, which I haven't encountered since the 50's, but there it was in the cranial attic. THREEDOG-OFL thinks it's just a band name? Didn't he ever wonder "why" or "where did that come from"? Some of us like learning things while solving, others, well...

Also, anyone unfamiliar with HAR as a laugh syllable doesn't read these comments very often.

Very nicely done, JW. Thanks for reminding me that a SEAHORSE is a fish. Saturday Stumper type puzzles make my day.

ChuckD 7:24 AM  

Tough one - I liked a lot of the longs but just too much 3-4 letter glue. SEAHORSE, TRAILBOSS, GODMODE are all solid. Rex should understand that the band took their name from the idiom - can’t turn that one around. USH, HAR etc are the downfall of this puzzle and tend to overwhelm all the good stuff.

@anon 6:44a - Grant is on the $50 bill.

Mike Herlihy 7:34 AM  

@Anon 6:44 - as was mentioned earlier, but perhaps before the post was moderated, Grant is the president on the $50 bill (US currency).

Amazingly I finished this in just over half my normal Friday time. Didn't like USH, HAR, or FOGY, but no problem with HISNIBS.
Surely DHAKA and LHASA crossing wasn't a problem with the A, was it? I don't see it being a Natick.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

I strangely found this somewhat easy for a Friday, which means one person's easy is another person's challenging.I was expecting Rex to find this easy and I was a bit surprised at the Challenging rating. Southwest corner was a little turbulent, otherwise smooth. I actually enjoyed it.

Suzie Q 7:57 AM  

I was surprised at Rex's rating. Must be a wheelhouse thing. For me it was fun and easy. Tricky clues at every turn.
There is a comforter store in Montana called Three Dog Down.

I don't know where Rex is getting his news but I have seen a lot more police getting hurt than rioters. Shame on you for berating the brave men and women risking their lives to save you and your property.

DeeJay 8:00 AM  

Terrific challenge.

Were I one of the best crossword solvers in the universe I would be absolutely delighted to face a real challenge.

QuasiMojo 8:08 AM  

This was the best puzzle this week so far and much better than one posted elsewhere recently (ahem). Even though I had a DNF! I put in TREY for the TRIO and AER ALERT looked good to me, you know, teddibly British and all. I don't mind. I aced the SB.

The fill for the most part was fine. INK BOTTLE worked for me since the clue emphasized quaint.

I think of them as Duty Free Shops. But Store is okay. Yes, Passenger Vans is dull but Balloon Artist made up for it.

One silly hurdle was putting in BEAT before BEAR. I was thinking stage directions.

My other blooper was putting in Three LOG rather than DOG. I once lived for a month in a cabin in the fall with no heat or electricity, nor water. If I'd had a dog I would have used it. Instead I raised the woods.

I DASHED OFF PUSHPINS sans hesitation.

Can't we post all the political stuff on places where it actually makes a difference? It seems pointless to use a crossword puzzle blog as a soap box. Perhaps it makes you feel like you're doing good. But it's wasted here. Take all that rage and protest outside. Or write a letter to your senator. Start your own blog.

Z 8:26 AM  

Of THREE bOG, cOG, DOG, fOG, hOG, jOG, lOG, nOG, pOG, and sOG, a THREE LOG night made the most sense. A DNF here. In case you didn’t know, DHAKA and the Buriganga River are in Bangladesh.

AIR raid siren was the answer. AIR ALERT makes no sense.


I knew it was WILL.I.AM but it wasn’t until I read @Joe Dipinto’s plaint (with which I agree) that I realized the clue was including the tittles. And since they are tittles and not dots let me just say the clue is wrong Wrong WRONG.*

Anyone know why GRANT is the answer?*

I assume the PASSENGER VANS are all painted green. I didn’t write it in for the longest time because the paint still hadn’t dried and I assumed the answer had to be cleverer. I hate being wrong.

Lucille Ball wore a POODLE CUT. That’s just the sort of stupid trivia that I’m glad I never knew but is so inane that now that I do know it I will probably never be able to forget. Someday when I no longer remember what I had for breakfast I’ll be muttering “I love Lucy had a POODLE CUT.”

The INK is black, the page is white.

Anyone know if it’s “a few bad apples spoils the bunch,” or “a few bad apples spoils the bin,” or “a few bad apples spoils the barrel?”

*I’m joking

CS 8:38 AM  

Agree with pabloinnh and others that this was a good puzzle! It was crunchy but not impossible. Another example of me being on a very different plane than Rex - I'm often stymied at Friday/Sat puzzles he thinks are a breeze. Also, he always complains at the usual
crosswords, which I think was less in play here and he complains about that too! Didn't know HIsnibs, inferred from the crosses, but what a fun phrase to learn.
I enjoyed many of the images: balloons, Lucille Ball, seahorses - some cheery things are OK in a puzzle (we can read the rest of the paper for the real news)

Happy Friday!


Reno retired 8:39 AM  

Was in my wheelhouse. As a cribbage player I wanted his nibs. I vaguely remember that Three Dog Night actually took their name because of its implication that on a really cold night in Alaska you slept with three dogs to keep warm. Boy Rex paints with a very broad brush. He and the liberal elite want to emasculate the police over the actions o a few bad apples. Never have owned a gun. But now seriously considering the need since we are headed towards anarchy. Antifa and looters are the darlings of the left.

Nancy 8:39 AM  

Oh, no! A one-letter DNF! And I had no idea until I came here.

Shouldn't it be a THREE LOG FIRE on a cold night? While I've never heard the phrase, at least it makes logical sense. Whereas a THREE DOG FIRE???? What on earth does that mean? You burn three of your favorite, sweetest, most indiscriminately loving pups to keep you warm on a February night???? Horrors! I don't want to even think about it!

Should I have known that the cross was DHAKA, not LHAKA? Maybe. But I didn't. Geography has never been one of my strong suits.

But despite my error, I loved this puzzle. Very challenging, very engrossing, a lot of work to solve and a big payoff when you do. And btw, I do consider this puzzle "Solved!". The tournament judges wouldn't, but I'm not in a tournament. And I consider a THREE LOG FIRE to be a much better answer than a THREE DOG FIRE. Not to mention creating a much less disturbing image. :)

Joe Welling 8:39 AM  

As a long-time cribbage player, I was pleased to see HIS NIBS turn up.

JB 8:40 AM  

He's on the $50 bill

QuasiMojo 8:40 AM  

PS, sorry, I meant "raided" the woods, not "raised."

OldCarFudd 8:49 AM  

My first wife came from Alice Springs, smack-dab in the middle of Australia. Three dog night was a common expression there in 1959, when I met her.

Nancy 8:59 AM  

Oops. I see that I supplied the word "fire", not the constructor. So, yes, sleeping with THREE DOGS would definitely keep you warm. Why, you wouldn't have to burn them at all. My mistake, happily.

@Lewis -- The hardest area for me was also the NW and, like you, it was BATHS that rescued me. But that was only after trying unsuccessfully to get BLINDS or DRAPES or CURTAINS to fit.

@Quasi -- Amen to your "do something that will actually make a difference" remark.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

@ Nancy, Where are you seeing fire?

kqrbob 9:08 AM  

Wow, them’s some sour grapes! Guess Rex doesn’t like to struggle. Loved this. Challenging, yes, but with plenty of rewards.

Z 9:13 AM  

@pabloinnh 7:21 - The odoriferous is actually countable.
1. More than a pair is off. Clue looks like poker, answer looks like jazz. It’s really just a group of friends. I guess you could argue that this is clever.
2. Skateboard trivia.
3. USH
4. A recycling code clue for STEEL.
6. “Details” cluing INFO. I guess you could argue this is clever.
7. Movie trailers are almost always edited to be acceptable to general audiences, says so right at the beginning. Yes, some are NSFW, but who, exactly, shares a movie trailer? It just doesn’t work in any real world sort of way.
8. M.O. for STYLE. SRSLY? I guess Modus Operandi doesn’t have to be limited to cheap noir novels and bad cop shows and sure, it’s just a fancy way of saying “habits,” but boy howdy that’s a stretch.
10. “Traditionalist” for FOGY. Equating being old fashioned to be a traditionalist works on some level I suppose, but not really the same thing.
11. If it is “at the Tonys” we’re looking for some sort of award, maybe an excerpt, not an entire PLAY.
12. HI notes? Too cute by half.

Individually these 12 items would barely get an arched eyebrow. But altogether they get a “relax, you’re trying too hard” from me. Only two clues got a smile, “It has four legs and a head” and “Drawing of grass?” 12 ughs to 2 cools is not a good ratio. The funny thing is normally a puzzle with a PPP count this low would have gotten high praise from me. PPP is a low 13 of 70, and NYTX are almost never below 20% so this is rare. This makes me wonder how much PPP is relied on as a difficulty crutch and the cluing is overcompensating for the low PPP.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Ahhh, thanks!

Whatsername 9:20 AM  

Had to work for it and got mired in the same places Rex discussed. Some of those Propers were brutally hard, but I’m a shameless cheat so I liked it anyway. I posted last night, but it’s worth repeating. 0FL Michael Sharp’s co-constructed puzzle in the LA Times yesterday was exceptionally good and worth the time.

I love THREEDOG Night and never tire of listening to their iconic music. (@Joe Dipinto at 5:39 - thanks for the interesting trivia about Black and White; I did not know that.) Out In The Country tops my list, but I don’t recall a single one of theirs that I didn’t like. Amazingly, they are still around and still touring 50 years after their inception in 1967.  It's funny how I can listen to music from that era and remember every single word without even trying but can't recall where I put my glasses two minutes ago.

Lucille Ball totally rocked that POODLECUT, and her sidekick Ethel sported a Bubble Cut. But while I've seen every single episode of I Love Lucy, I had never heard of either style referred to as such. Back in that day, women also wore poodle skirts which were very popular and  absolutely positively had to be worn with bobby socks and saddle oxford shoes.  

@CDilly52: Poodle skirts me think of your hilarious church dress story from yesterday which brought back memories of some hand-me-downs I got from cousins and then had to wear them just to show how grateful I was.  Ugh.

“Joy to the world, all the boys and girls.“ May we all be singing that soon.

57stratocaster 9:20 AM  

Love that when Rex has trouble with a puzzle he hates nearly everything about it. Oddly I found it easier than average for Friday, and, not so oddly I liked it. Had Barbiecut (?) before poodlecut (??) which slowed me down.

Blue Stater 9:23 AM  

Terrible, terrible, terrible puzzle. Right up there in the running for WOAT. The rot continues....

OffTheGrid 9:25 AM  

@Reno Retired 8:39. Nice satire but probably too subtle for some.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Are you serious?!

newspaperguy 9:31 AM  

Methinks his nibs (aka Rex) doth protest too much.

Will 9:33 AM  

I never thought my middle school skateboarding days would help with a crossword

Hambone 9:34 AM  

Got waylayed all over the place with PRAIRIE CUT (?) for POODLE CUT, RAMPARTS has the same # of letters as BASTIONS ... COMPLIMENTARY has the same # of letters as PASSENGER VANS ... incorrectly thought the 50s president could have been U THANT, making it a THREE COT night (?)

This after setting a Thursday speed record, ouch.

RooMonster 9:42 AM  

Hey All !
Does anyone know who's on the $50 bill? HAR.

Started out a toughie, but plodded on, and bit by bit, the puz started revealing itself. Got a HAR when I got HAR. 😋

Didn't know a THREE DOG night meant a freezing night, so that was fun to learn. The band was great!

DASHES OFF seems more running away than writing fast. IMO. But two F's is nice.

Naturally, had my one-letter DNF. Had LoL for LIL thinking the second "short" was a HAR reference. HIS NoBS actually sounds better than HIS NIBS for a High-and-Mighty type.

COST is a stretch as clued. Mother HEN is odd to me. And of course I knew what recycling code "40" was, who doesn't? 😀

Will.I.Am was a terrible clue! In a good way. I thought of him immediately, but then dismissed it as he only has two dots twixt his name(s).

Didn't fall into the lawn for YARD trap as a bunch of y'all did, as had gotten STYLE first.

UKE had a fun clue. Haven't heard of BETO O'Rourke, is that short for something? Betholomew? HAR.

An overall nice themeless. Struggled some, bit ultimate kicked this puzs NIBS. 😎

Four F's

webwinger 9:46 AM  

TGIF! This puzzle Fridays with the best of them IMO. Pushed back pretty hard starting out, but in satisfying fashion ultimately yielded to persistence (without Google help) in about 10 minutes more than average time.

Lots of nice entries: SEAHORSE, BASTION, POODLECUT. Fun clues for PUSHPIN, WILLIAM (don’t know the music but was aware of the musician’s odd naming convention). Unaware of meaning clued for HIS NIBS—knew the phrase only from its affirmative use (with HER) in relation to the singer Georgia Gibbs (an interesting entertainer, Russian Jewish descent, made her reputation in the 1950s with covers of songs originated by black artists).

Want to call to your attention a couple of very good very recent articles re Covid mitigation: This excellent comprehensive review and meta-analysis published June 1 in The Lancet provides the best evidence to date concerning the value of masks and social distancing. It concludes that both are probably quite beneficial. A one-page Research in Context section is particularly valuable. Of considerable significance IMO is that the authors make no mention of stay-at-home orders for containment of Covid. This article from yesterday’s NYT provides a really nice and balanced consideration of mask use during exercise, a subject of some recent conjecture here.

BTW, for those still wrestling with the arcane syntactical requirements for getting a link to appear in a Blogger post, I’ve found by far the easiest thing to do is start by copying and pasting an already formatted phrase into your message. (If you go to my profile [click on the blue webwinger above], you will find just such a phrase at the bottom. Can’t put it in this post, or Blogger will get all confused.) Then insert your link (copied from browser window) in place of LINK, and the text you want to appear in blue, in place of TEXT. Voila!

Just read @Rex—back to being Mr. Crankypants; guess a cute kitten can only do so much. For some reason I’m not bothered when the distinction between Friday and Saturday puzzles gets blurred; I’m happy to be able to solve in either case. OFL’s reaction to HIS NIBS was interesting—maybe the connection to a showbiz figure he’s never heard of but would surely disapprove of somehow got to him…

bauskern 9:55 AM  

Yes, a toughie. I knew from my days back in middle school that the band Three Dog Night was named after a cold night in Australia . . . . And I was just thinking of Joy to the World only yesterday. Of course Rex didn't like this puzzle; it made him struggle and it raised his average time for a Friday.
Could we stop with the politics? Yes there are bad cops. Just like there are bad judges. Bad puzzle critics. Bad protestors. We all have our flaws. Let's try to come up with creative solutions instead of constantly bemoaning the other side.

Joy to the world. All the boys and girls.

the prof 9:56 AM  

Today's was relatively easy for me. Then I read Rex to find, as always, that clues I know and Rex doesn't are bad clues. Clues Rex knows and I don't are good clues.

Sir Hillary 10:05 AM  

This played insanely hard for me -- longest Friday solve (or Saturday solve, for that matter) in years. But that doesn't mean I hated it or thought it "tried too hard" (whatever that means). It was just really tough.

Loved TRUCK (brought me back to my '70s skating days), BASTIONS, TRAILBOSS, the GRANT clue (clever) and the UKE clue (HI-lariously goofy).

Never heard of HISNIBS and will never remember or use it. It's obviously real, though, judging from how many here know it. I assume GODMODE has to do with e-gaming, which meant I needed every single cross.

Can someone help me with the clue for STAG? I'm lost.

For a brief, wonderful moment, I thought 1D was going to give us yet another brilliant clue for moTHS. Ah well...

Lorelei Lee 10:06 AM  

Fought my way through this with a machete.

That little NW corner, my starting point, eluded me completely. Ink bottle is not a thing. Inkwell is a thing.

And looking up Poodle Cut, I find that what Lucy had was a Poodle Style. It's that architectural topper from the very early episodes where it's rolled up in the back. Actual poodles have Poodle Cuts. It's mis-clued.

Does anyone hire a Balloon Artist for the party? Maybe Jeff Koons if you've $50k doing nothing.

@CDilly52 from yesterday, har! You would've been my childhood partner in crime if I'd found you. I specialized in too much of a good thing and the results thereof. My cousin still taunts me with the Jello incident, but creamed spinach would have gone down childhood story infamy.

Joaquin 10:15 AM  

I think there is a major mistake in today's puzzle. I just sold a table on Craigslist and the buyer gave me a brand-new, crisp, $50 bill. It has a picture of on it.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Can someone please explain the answer to 62A? Thanks. (And I loved the puzzle!)

Kathy 10:19 AM  

I was surprisingly on the constructor’s wavelength for most of the solve.
My first entry was altos, oh, I was feeling clever because I happen to sing alto in my chorus. HAR!
UKE/TOKE wordplay cross fell early—great clues.
THREEDOG was fun. I knew music would ensue.
@Whatshername, Out in the Country was my favorite too! They are still touring?
Hung onto scribbles, front lawn and altos for a little too long before I saw the folly of my ways.
SCOW also fell easily. Current or former New Yorkers: remember the infamous garbage barge fiasco? Compliments of the township I lived in, you’re welcome.

Alas, I Naticked at Little Miss Sunshine/old Euro domain/Asian capital. Partially because I misspelled LHASA as LLASA. Never again.

I can live with being close but no cigar because I loved the puzzle and enjoyed the journey. It was loaded with delightful wordplay and was largely not a trivia contest.

I am adding John Wrenholt to my favorites list!

And, Rex, if the puzzle is too hard, get your wife to help you.

Unknown 10:20 AM  

Oddly, I expected to find everyone complaining that this was too easy. Must have hit me right in the wheelhouse. Slightly faster than my normal Wed. time.

Seth 10:28 AM  

Can someone explain OUR for "Just between you and me?"?

mathgent 10:30 AM  

HISNIBS. I haven’t heard that in decades. My mother’s set would say it when referring to a spoiled child. I understand that it was British slang from the 19th Century. Garry Moore would introduce that wonderful singer as “Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs.” She had a big hit with Kiss of Fire in 1952.

Even though I know the band very well, I confidently wrote in THREELOG. Actually, I like that term better. Sleeping with three dogs in your bed? When I first heard the name of the band, I thought that it referred to a disappointing evening one of the boys had on the road with the local groupies.

LHAKA didn’t look right, so I looked it up and found DHAKA. Like Nancy, I don’t know much geography. What little I do know, I learned from crosswords. Ebro, Arno, Oise, Yser, Elbe, Aar, Neva, Lena. And that’s just some of the rivers.

I felt very hip because I knew Will. I. Am from watching the Grammies. I see two dots, where are the other two?

Very good puzzle with excellent sparkle. I had 14 red plus signs in the margins, way above average, even for a Friday.

KnittyContessa 10:31 AM  

I found it super tough. Never ever heard of HISNIBS. Does anyone say USH? The clues for STEEL and PUSHPIN were brutal. That corner was the last to fall.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

gave up when the SW wouldn't finish, so glanced here, and got USH (????????????), which led to the rest. HIS NIBS was used by my parent's generation (WWII) quite a bit, although I don't know its etymology. LIL???? only in Dogpatch.

and why's BETO been utterly silent, as least from the fake news, with all that's going on?

CAFES is way too obvious, given the rest of the cluing... it can't be that easy, right?

not that I international travel a lot, but isn't DUTY FREE ShOp the idiom?

Mammy Yokum has spoken!

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

oh, yes. it's an AIR raid SIREN. look it up.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

brutally difficult for me, thought a DNF was in the cards but somehow crawled across the finish line. Three dog, truck, poodle cut, william, his nibs - sorry, had no idea on these. guessed grant (thought clue meant 1850's)

Hungry Mother 10:37 AM  

A TINGE sloggier than usual, but still about average for a Friday. GODMODE made me think of politics, so I’ll bite my tongue.

burtonkd 10:40 AM  

I scanned the comments and this doesn't seem to have been covered - perhaps too much common knowledge, but eluded Rex's review:

THREE DOG NIGHT is an aboriginal term for a night so cold that you have to cuddle up with 3 dogs to survive. Substitute dogs for members of the sex of your choosing, and you have enough innuendo to have a fun name for a band in the free love era.

Ramparts fit nicely in the BASTIONS and
Scribbles in the DASHESOFF, so that took some time to sort out the South.

With this much toughness, I was surprised to get the happy music, but felt like a good fair effort. Knew early on I wouldn't be tearing up the clock, so just settled in and enjoyed the flavor of the clueing.

Enjoyed GODMODE and PUSHPIN, sleepily figured GRANT may have been from the 1850's, and thought nice misdirect (oh, the $50)
Was looking for some kind of architectural feature like AFRAME for the ski lodge, but nothing beats a hot SAUNA after a day in the cold preparing for the 3dognight.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

If your surfing the NET while in your office cube (which, of course, yore not supposed to do), racy video is labelled, some times and some place

Dan P 10:51 AM  

Solid puzzle, v enjoyable, new stuff and old, some funky cluing. NW was tough but doable: SAUNAs are common in winter lodges in ME, eg here

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Classic out-of-control "Too clever by half".


The SW was absurd, solved the rest of it over an extraordinary amount of time spent.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

THREE DOG night is Australian slang, the band came later. This was one of the easy answers for me.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

My mom also used his nibs all the time. Still makes me sample. And so does this puzzle. For my part, I enjoyed nearly all the things OFL griped about. But then his is a small world. Unspeakably sad that he doesn’t know wHat a truck is. Set aside that he’s a California kid, the birth place of skateboarding. Trucks are used in many applications. Trains being the most obvIous.
Anyway, thanks for the first rate puzzle John.

burtonkd 10:58 AM  

@Z, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Here's mine:)
Out of your 12-point list, only USH gave me the arched eyebrow, with a wonder about FOGY spelling. M.O. for STYLE gave me a pleasant "oh, that could work"

Gotta work on my scanning, skills 3 dog night clearly covered before I got to it, but I at least I did add a twist...

TJS 11:01 AM  

So Monday was the puzzle of the week? Maybe there is more than one puzzle guru that lets personal animus color their rating system. Hard to believe otherwise..

Just decided that OFLs' opening sentence isn't even worth discussing. Go play with the kitten.

Malsdemare 11:07 AM  

Huh! This went pretty quickly for me although I ended with errors and couldn't find them. I was SURE it was GODcODE and then I mistyped TOKE which gave me UkE and those look perfectly correct when you're proofing your puzzle. So a fail but I finished it fairly quickly (for me).

I was pretty proud of myself to get STEEL but really, what else could it be? And as I understand it, AIRALERTs were a nightly terror during the Battle of Britain. C'mon Rex. LHASA was a blind swing at a crazy pitch but that made DHAKA pretty obvious. But then, I had a leg up in that corner because in our house in cold Illinois with malamutes, THREEDOGNIGHT is a common phrase. Two fuzzy mals and one large man make a king-sized bed quite cozy when it’s -20. Dogs pile on and we sigh, "Ah, Two DOG NIGHT. Thanks, guys." And settle in for a long winter's nap.

I do understand Rex's angst, though. We got brave and had drinks on a restaurant patio last night with two friends (first time out since March other than take-out and groceries) and most of the conversation was virus or race. We had looters Sunday night, recruited via Facebook, for f&$#'s sake, but the protests continued to be peaceful and our police seem to be behaving themselves. Monday morning, huge groups of volunteers showed up to help clean up the mess left by the looters and that goes a long way towards calming the community. Everybody opened back up yesterday, so I guess we'll see a rise in virus cases. We hope to have one more soul-soothing outing before we lock ourselves up.

Be careful out there. Mother Earth is apparently quite pissed off.

We're meeting as a family at a beach house rental in ten days so we're all getting tested and then going into quarantine Monday.

Bax'N'Nex 11:08 AM  

So we had Wednesday on Thursday and now Thursday on Friday. Can't believe Mike found this hard. I finished in 17 minutes which is really good for me for a normal Friday. Didn't know several things, but got from crosses.

Interested to see what tomorrow brings.

As for Three Dog Night...Jeremiah was a Bullfrog might be their most popular song to the masses, but this is my favorite...
Three Dog Night
You don't need to TOKE...but it doesn't hurt! :)

Richard 11:09 AM  

A little surprised by OFS's difficult rating. I found it sorta mediumish for a Friday. That's probably a wheelhouse thing, and maybe played to an, erm, more senior demographic -- like me. Viz, HISNIBS was a gimme; I can't recall ever hearing of a "HIS," but I do remember the '50s jazz singer referred to as "Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs." Don't know much (anything?) about skateboards (17A), but I do know that railroad cars' wheels are mounted to TRUCKs, so that made a certain amount of sense.

Some things I just didn't know (e.g., GODMODE, NSFW, DHAKA), but crosses rescued me.

Wanted FOlk (34D traditionalist) for FOGY for a while -- and I do think that that would've been a better answer for that clue, but the "G" gave me PASSENGERVANS, which, otherwise, was staring back as a green paint wall.

Overall, a thumbs up for Mr. Wrenholt's contribution. Bravo!

GILL I. 11:09 AM  

You know how sometimes you get on this lovely wavelength high with a constructor and you utter some ooohs and aahs and you get all giddy because the two of you are having some fun? Well, today I was on Venus and John was on Mars. I had so many doovers on this puzzle that I actually wanted a drink.
Where to start?
Got those off my chest.
I won't bore you with things I've never heard of - that's on me....And I won't ask what the hell a PUSHPIN has to do with some colorful spot on a map or why my idol, Lucille, ever wore a pooch on her head.
I spend years in DUTY FREE but, by gum, it was a shop. No STORE in my airports. I would always buy Eau Savage for my husband and Opium for me. I rarely spritz myself these days because FOGY HISNIBS get all offended.
This took three sit-downs to finally finish and I had a lot of help. My favorite answer was the cute little SEA HORSE. The Zebra and the Short-snouted are my favorite. I hope these are not eaten for their exoticness....
GOD MODE? I wish I were.
Please keep wearing a mask and social distance. And no, I'm not giving anyone the middle finger...that's my thumb.
Think good thoughts and pray that YEAST comes back on the market......

relicofthe60s 11:09 AM  

HIS NIBS is pretty old fashioned. It seems like something Our Miss Brooks would have called Mr. Conklin, the principal. It also makes me think of the jazz singer known as Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs. Rex probably won’t get any of that.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

It’s true that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but remember, z’s opinion is the only one that counts. Don’t believe me.
? Just ask him.
And though it doesn’t matter, I say z’s list the thing that reeks, not the puzzle. This thing had style, wit, and cleverness in spades.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  


USH was in a major puzzle this week (WSJ?). Yeah, I shook my head a little first time, too, but with current word-shortening trends (Category on Jeopardy last night!) I guess it's OK. #EXPERIENCE

Lorelei Lee 11:15 AM  

Oh, forgot. @Rex, your LA Times puzzle was a lot of fun. Fresh fill, fresh clues. DNF but had a ball trying.

@Kathy, Not from or a former NY'er but my brain is a musty, cobwebbed-filled universe filled with worthless information. Like a barge full of trash that can't find a taker, and that's how I got Scow.

Brit-ism, Three Snog Night.

Ethan Taliesin 11:26 AM  

I incorrectly guessed this was constructed by Erik Agard. Didn't know the term TRAILBOSS but okay.

Pretty good. I didn't find it thaaaat hard, but I'm sure my time was still waaaay over Rex'z.

It's the biggest sucker deal in retail, but still...

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

"50s president" threw me for awhile, because it should have been "50s President"---sloppy editing!

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

This is a recent use of AIR ALERT (in the UK):

"A toxic air alert has been issued for London after 'very high' pollution levels triggered a warning system, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced."

The worst in recent memory was in 1952: killed 12,000 or so.

Swagomatic 11:34 AM  

Not my cup of tea. I had to quit last night and finish this morning. Plus, it's DUTY FREE SHOP, not store.

Newboy 11:39 AM  

That cross Rex noted (47d/57a) really caused a head scratching pause! My American ear just can’t trust that LHA?? Opening the cross with DHA?? Is certainly fair, but damn it’s tough until Alan rode in like a TRAIL BOSS to circle the herd in the SE corner. I agree the cluing was just tough in several spots ( Come to without a question mark for COST), but that’s what I’m looking for any day of the week. 50s Prez? Sure but what century? Errr, maybe half a Franklin?? Thanks for sharing this mind stretching workout Mr. Wrentholt; I will try to remember your trickery when next we meet—soon I hope.

Perry 11:50 AM  

Grant is the president on the $50 bill? When have I ever seen a $50 bill? $20s and $100s sure, but rarely if ever a $50.

I got utterly stuck in the SW corner. USH. STEEL. HISNIBS. Argh!

Richardf8 12:03 PM  

This was about average for me. Not a lot to trip me up. A nice themeless. From watching garbage scows float down the Mississippi to remembering, after a few crosses, overhauling my skateboard back in the 80’s. It was a nice romp. I nearly naticked in the SE, but my subconscious somehow knew to fill in Arkin. I did see Argo in the theatre so maybe it was tuvked in there?

Chip Hilton 12:06 PM  

Tough, but wonderfully so. Why complain about a Saturday level challenge on a Friday? Every clue works for me. LHASA is familiar, so the crossing with the tougher DHAKA didn’t upset me. NW corner last to fall but fun challenge. Thanks, John Wrenholt.

Kathy 12:10 PM  

@Lorelei Lee, ink bottles were also a thing. Schaefer Ink came in these cool thick glass bottles that had a well inside. Before you opened the bottle you tipped it sideways to fill the well, facilitating dipping in your fountain pen for a re-fill. In incoming ink made a distinct slurping sound. I haven’t thought about that since the Fifties—what memories it evokes. Back then, Catholic schools frowned on ballpoint pens, for some unexplained reason, and we were required to use fountain pens. Some of them were quite beautiful with inlaid pearl and gold plated nibs. Re-filling your pen served as a great excuse to get up out of your seat and walk around because the one ink bottle was on a windowsill in the back of the classroom. You could cut up with your friends back there if you were subtle enough to escape notice.

There I go reminiscing again! Puzzling has that effect on us, especially lately.

And you remembered the hapless garbage scow! I just now googled it and, wow, I had forgotten just how hilarious that story was!

Masked and Anonymous 12:10 PM  

First entry I splatzed in was: SEAHORSE. Then ATA. Then CRAYONS, BCE, CAFES. So I sorta got led away from the NW, without even lookin at it thoroughly -- until much later. Overall, thought this was a fun and feisty FriPuz. With the official Jaws of Themelessness black square blobs. There's yer rodeo. themelessthUmbsUp.

fave entry: THREEDOG. Not to be confused with the NINECAT entry, in Wednesday's @RP blog.

staff weeject picks: USH (nice desperation), HAR (HARd to beat), OUR (neat raised-by-wolves clue), ATA (more cool desperation), LIL (weeject lilject meat).

@RP's personal trainer would probably exhort him with a MEEOW, or somesuch. M&A does not have a personal trainer and is now feelin inadequate. Unless a budgie counts; he does have us pretty well-trained, I reckon.

Thanx for the tough-ush solvequest, Mr. Wrenholt. Primo mix of fillins.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


jb129 12:13 PM  

After a week of easy puzzles, I loved that this one took me so long - especially "His Nibs" (50 across).

What? 12:21 PM  

So Rex had trouble and I breezed through it? What does this mean? I have no idea except it is unusual.

Nick D 12:27 PM  

Very tough (but good). First 30+ minute solve in a while. I've never heard of a SCOW or HIS NIBS or a POODLE CUT, so that SW corner ate up a huge chunk of time and brain power. Rather exhausting.

pmdm 12:28 PM  

Seth: I'm not sure your question has been replied to yet. Let's say a husband and wife co-own a house. They would refer to the house as "our house."

Anecdotally, it seems Mike Sharp dislikes all puzzles that stump him. While I might disaree with that assessment, I can see how many have come to that conclusion. But, for example, he really didn't say the puzzle today was terrible, although he sertainly had enough of personal gripes he communicated.

I myself just shrug my shoulders. I solved the puzzle with the same type of struggle as I have with most Friday puzzles. But I enjoyed the struggle more because I didn't have to slog through as much PPP as I do frequently. And and time spent on the puzzle may have even been less than normal for a Friday.

The constructor remarked elsewhere that he though the puzzle was not as hard as a normal Friday puzzle and that the editors made a number of the clues harder. Being often turned off by the cluing in Joel's puzzles, I'll blame him for the cluing. But I might be wrong.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Ball point pens were frowned upon because the sisters, correctly, believed they would lead to bad penmanship. Ballpoint pens can write at all kind of angles that a fountain pen can’t. Better nand position does in fact lead to better strokes/penmanship.

Crimson Devil 12:37 PM  

Thought y’day was Wed and today Sat.
Jeremiah was, indeed, my favorite bulldog...never understood a word he said, but ....0ut in Country great too.
Wonder if there’s a $50 spot in that tomb?
Sir H, STAGs go into rut when females (who’re in charge of course) go into “season”.
Enjoyed remembering Rowdy Yeates, TRAILBOSS extraordinaire.
Fine puz.

Whatsername 12:49 PM  

@Anon (10:17) NSFW is Not Safe For Work or Not Suitable For Work. Often displayed on websites, it is a warning that content about to be viewed may not be appropriate on your work computer.

@Kathy (10:19j Yes the band has 31 concerts scheduled for the remainder of this year. A couple of the original members have passed on and been replaced but most are still part of the early group.

Ferguson 12:54 PM  

When male deer are seeking a mate they fight each other by banging heads together. it’s called “rutting” when they eventually mate.

jberg 1:06 PM  

I liked it fine, despite going with "demolitionist" at first. That kept me from putting in the otherwise obvious DASHES OFF until I had a lot more crosses. The ? in the clue should have tipped me off, though.

DaccA before DHAKA--I think the former is an old transliteration; but I don't see it as obscure. There are lots of small nations I don't know the capitals of, but Bangladesh is a big country, and in the news a lot. So just ignore the distraction about the river and think about 5-letter Asian capitals starting with D. As for LHASA, I guess if you've never been fascinated by Buddhism you might not know it; I have been, and I actually would have put in Benares, even though it's the wrong religion. But the crosses make both clear.

@GHarris good point! I saw that GRANT fit, said to myself, "oh, the 19th century," and completely ignored the obvious point that he took office in 1869!
I also completely ignored the money thing until @frantic Sloth pointed it out. Now we know which commenters have wallets full of big bills!

Here's Lucy! (scroll down, or search for 'poodle'and go to the third hit). It was indeed called a POODLE CUT at the time.

@Z, it's bunch. (Had to look it up, my aging memory wanted Bo Diddley.)

I've heard USH a lot, but only in the specific sense of getting to see a play or concert free by volunteering to usher. "The tickets are kind of pricy, so I'm going to USH."

Great clue for LIL; HATED not so much, since HATEful is what abominable means; hated would be abominated.

Nice workout, whatever day of the week this is. Maybe Rex is keeping better track than many of us -- or maybe he has trouble, so relies on the puzzle's level to tell him.

According to Wikipedia, "three dog night" refers to an Aborigine sleeping in a hole with one or more dingos. Dingos aren't domesticated, so that aborigine would not have fared well. I'm guessing this phrase originated as a joke.

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Yes indeedy, this was a tough Friday and I enjoyed every moment of it in spite of my two errors. The 17A-4D cross, I should have fixed because I've seen [sic] in many an article but today it was SIn because I know nothing about skate boards except that I would kill myself if I did anything beyond going 3 feet straight on a very smooth, flat surface. So the TRUnK was going to connect the wheels to the deck in my world.

I spent a lot of time on my FRONT lawn yelling at the kids until I realized that STYLE really did fit in at 10D and still gave me some grass at 18A (I wasn't drawing on that grass though, not even with my SERVER-provided CRAYONS.) The BALLOON seller came by and tried to interest me in some starving ARTIST paintings in tempera but I told him to get that breading off the canvas and use oil paints instead of EGG.

And then I went to sleep, cuddling up to my THREE lOGS, as so many others did today. Warm but not very comfortable and the bed has a tendency to catch fire.

I used to sport a POODLE cut when I had short, permed hair but now I have the SEA Hag look and you can all just laugh behind my back if you feel the need to sneer at my long, mostly gray hair. So HAR.

I think the SW filled in the fastest once PASSENGER VANS made sense of my _____SENGE___S in the grid.

Lots of fun with this one, thanks John Wrenhoolt, though I don't appreciate your rubbing BIBIMBAP in our Spelling Bee faces over at I suppose you like colcannon too!

Lorelei Lee 1:25 PM  

@Kathy and @Jberg, I see now that you had to be there! And @Anon 12:35, thanks for rounding out the learning experience. That's a revelation.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

"I used to sport a POODLE cut when I had short, permed hair but now I have the SEA Hag look and you can all just laugh behind my back if you feel the need to sneer at my long, mostly gray hair. So HAR."

well, well. only The Wife (who isn't caucasian) was known to use that description. I guess it must be universal, in some sense. one or two are prominently displayed in a recent knickers TeeVee advert for wimins over 50, although not by name.

Arden 1:37 PM  

Three dog night is definitely a thing. That’s how the band came up with it’s name. Great puzzle. I had learned HIS NIBS long ago from the film BEST IN SHOW.

saynotoredface 1:42 PM  

This was a clunky, stupid puzzle with so many reaches I thought I was going to pull a muscle. HISNIBS? AIRALERT? (Air siren, air raids I could see) THREEDOG? USH? (No one says that) SAUNA? I’ve been to many ski lodges and none of them have a sauna. Ugh this was the worst, trying way to hard to be clever and it fell flat.

BBPDX 1:49 PM  

Bravo! I completely agree.

Z 1:54 PM  

@burtonkd - A couple of them I can see (and noted), but I would love to hear how POODLE CUT clued via a 1950's/60's TV star doesn't get an arched eyebrow from you. When I searched for images using "poodle cut hairdo" Lucy was the 36th hit. Or, I know trivia appeals to others more than to me, but a recycling code seems about as niche as being familiar with 1990's Elvis Costello discography. I'd be tempted to spit if I weren't so ladylike.*

@pmdm - Interesting comment from the constructor. It seems to support Rex's, "ugh over and over with this Trying Too Hard to be hard instead of fun."

@Anon11:13 - USH shows up a lot in xwords. M&A will certainly argue with me since there aren't enough U's in puzzles, but I wish USH were relegated to emergency use only.

*Yes - just an excuse to post an Elvis video

@TJS - Slate's headline captured this week best.

JC66 1:57 PM  


Great headline! Thanks for posting.

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

Callin Lucy a 50s tv star is silly. Lucy WAS the 50s tv star and 60s and 70s. Her hairstyle was iconic. A very strong case can be made for I Love Lucy being the influential show of all time. Heck, sitcoms still use the three camera setup Desi designed almost 70 years ago.

Unknown 2:01 PM  

Ohhh thank you! I wrote GRANT, them erased it, then rewrote it. This was too hard to be fun. Made me feel a little better that even OFL found it tough.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Calling Lucy a 50s TV star is silly. She was THE 50s TV star. And remained a giant for another two decades. Her hairstyle was iconic. It wa even a big part of one of her shows iconography. A very strong case can be made that I Love Lucy It’s the most influential show of all time. Certainly it is among sitcoms. The three camera setup Desi Arnaz developed remains the standard today.
But, yeah, Lucy was just a bit of 50s ephemera. Sure.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

More like a Saturday, indeed. And a tough Saturday at that. Proud to have finished without help, even though I nearly gave up.

egsforbreakfast 2:18 PM  

This was an excellent struggle and I enjoyed most of it, loved a bunch of it and felt USH only once or twice.

Being late to post, I’ll just add one irrelevant point. The largest duty-free retailer in the world is Dufry. I’ve noticed this name before and thought, “what a strange way to make Duty Free into a hip-sounding portmanteau.” It turns out that that was always the name of this Swiss company founded in 1865. I am now sitting in embarrassment at my judgemental assumption.

jcbjr 2:46 PM  

LTFT. Found this slightly more challenging than median Friday, liked it. NW and SW dropped last. New terms/words for me HISNIBS and POODLECUT (the latter inferable; the former a good jokey nickname I’ll now be using for my son, who can get annoyed by minutiae). Didn’t like cluing for PUSHPIN, (how about “Cork skewer?”) When will we start getting clues for ABS that aren’t immediately obvious (“Foot pump alternative?)? Liked cluing on LIL and GRANT.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

My mother also used “His Nibs” to refer to our finicky cat. Lucille Ball wore her hair in a pompadour, not a poodle cut

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

I hate/loved PUSHPINS in a way that I really respect.

HISNIBS is not a thing and absolutely has never been a thing, I don't care if my google search indicated someone wrote an article about it in 1998 and... not much else.

DigitalDan 3:00 PM  

Easy for me, for a Friday. That means it took me twice as long as Rex, at least. Can't say why, except that I am usually saved by the downs.

Charles Emerson Winchester III 3:18 PM  

This was a favorite type of puzzle for me: some apparently obscure-to-others stuff that I knew cold (DHAKA, LHASA, SCOW, e.g.) combined with things I know nothing about (Lucille Ball hairstyles, skateboard parts, video game modes, personal trainers) - but ultimately get-at-able. Thoroughly enjoyable. Had near DNF with a THREEDOt night crossing thANT (I had in mind the former UN General Secretary U Thant) but then re-thought the area, ending in a “duh!” moment when it all made sense.

As for the political stuff, let me just say this: I am ever more in favor of bacon. Think about it.

Queen Beep 3:28 PM  

Air alert? It’s the answer that stinks! During the Battle of Britain the population was alerted by SIRENS, which warned of AIR RAIDS. Therefore, the answer should have been AIR RAID SIREN. The answer has nothing to do with the clue. And ush? Ugh! Awful clueing.

burtonkd 3:37 PM  

@pmdm - Your explanation of the word "our" as in "our house" made me laugh harder than anything I've read in a long time. Thank you!

@Z - I'll meet you at half an arch for the poodle clue. Never heard of it (that I can remember), but was thrilled to infer it as I got the OO (hi, Lewis) and was able to visualize the answer. In other news, not sure if you are taking me up on my offer to be educated about Elvis Costello one video at a time, but I do like the lyric today.

Jay 3:43 PM  

This was beyond impossible. I am gratified that for once Rex agrees with me. No complaints about the grid and the entries. But boy, the cluing was brutal all around.

Dave S 4:15 PM  

"His Nibs" spoiled it for me. Not that I didn't struggle with a lot it. Had to just walk away from it for an hour or so, and eventually things started falling into place. But then I had all the squares filled in and I'm staring at "his nibs" wondering if this is really a thing, not that I didn't have to take it on faith that ush and Dhaka were. Don't mind working hard, but I wish when I had finished that I could feel the bang of actually getting it right, rather than the whimper of "maybe."

webwinger 4:19 PM  

@Z 1:54 (and JC66): As the late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley infamously said during the 1968 Democratic Convention police riot (exact words used in a subsequent official report on the disturbance), the police are not there to create disorder—they are there to maintain disorder. (BTW, especially if that reference doesn’t resonate with you, take a look at the amazing non-documentary movie Medium Cool, written and directed by the great cinematographer Haskell Wexler, with much footage caught by his cameras in Grant Park while that historic event was actually taking place as he followed his fictional characters through the scene.)

It was not until many years after I moved to Chicago in 1976 that I got over painful feelings left from those days, which then came back during my final years there following the 2014 Laquan McDonald shooting. Watching closely to see how things play out under the new police commissioner recently appointed by mayor Lori Lightfoot (about as different from Richard J. as it's possible to be, and who should definitely be picked for Joe Biden's running mate).

@Anonymous (not lookin’ at you, Mammy Yokum): If you’re going to post 25 times in a day, you owe us the courtesy of at least dropping a name—any name, any word!—at the end of your comments.

Barb Chamberlain 4:35 PM  

Found it strangely satisfying to wrestle my way through this.

I'm wondering if regional differences exist around what you call the space in front of a house where you might put a sign or if this just reflects preferences in landscaping. You may or may not have a LAWN in the YARD. My mom told me to go out and play in the yard, not on the lawn, so I had that one immediately.

Grant is a 50s president because his picture is on the $50 bill. As a bread baker and former stage mom I got the crosses that helped me make sense of that one pretty quickly, given that there are only so many 5-letter presidents.

We can get rid of all quaint Britishisms like HIS NIBS forever, as far as I'm concerned. The touch of white colonialism is especially grating right now.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  


well, there are myriad anonimice, each of us comments as we see fit. for my part, only a couple as direct comments on the puzzle in general, unless something pops up after my first comment. oft times there are tangent threads generated by others on which this mouse will opine. if the Cheetohead (not my coinage, but I cleave) can use twitter to incite violence, then the stray 'extra' comment here pales in comparison.

JC66 5:01 PM  

@Anon 4:38

I for one, enjoy your comments. Why not post as "not my coinage, but I cleave"" You'd still be anonymous, but then we'd all know it's you

Anonymous 5:20 PM  


I'll consider it. Over time, even by switching syntax, spelling, and such, I guess that the observant can distinguish on of us mice from the others. I'm not always sure which one I am. :)

5:28 PM  

I suggest you broaden your media horizons

john towle 5:52 PM  

Cribbage: His Nobs (not his nibs) refers to a hand-held or crib-held Jack the same suit as the face-up card on the deck…worth one point. His Heels refers to any Jack face-up on the deck as a result of the cut & draw of said Jack and worth two points for the dealer and pegged right away. There are those interlopers who say his nibs instead Nobs or Heels. Those of the Old School should avoid this, at all COST.

Don’t take yourselves too seriously.

Fifteen two and the rest won’t do,


mmorgan 5:59 PM  

Wow. Everything Rex hated about this puzzle I enjoyed. Tough but gettable and a satisfying solve for me!

Z 6:01 PM  

@burtonkd - One video at a time? I can never stop at just one. (I almost went with his ode to Thatcher, but it seems like I linked to that one not too long ago)

@I Cleave - What @JC66 said.

@webwinger - I don’t know the New Yorker’s paywall policies, but I thought you’d find this article interesting. I’d add a “so far” to the title, but they didn’t ask me.

mmorgan 6:11 PM  

Interesting how many don’t know USH. I hear it (and use it) with considerable frequency.

Proposed new blog term for when 37 or so people explain an answer to someone without realizing, because of moderation delay, that others also explained it: this phenomenon can be called a 50GRANT.

syracusesolver 6:18 PM  

How nice—a Friday puzzle that Fridays so well, challenging but not frustrating.

I’ve really enjoyed the reminiscing about fountain pens and INK BOTTLEs. I went to public school and have the same memories. I write with my left hand, so penmanship was quite a challenge until I accidentally discovered the "trick" of turning the paper in the opposite orientation of most of my classmates. My writing improved dramatically, and I no longer had a permanent blue stain on my hand.

I’ve only ever slept with two dogs, but they were large. The dam of one had LIL as part of her registered name.

Thanks to JW for a fine puzzle and to all commenters who made positive, interesting remarks!

pabloinnh 6:38 PM  

Hey @syracusesolver-I went to public school in Upstate NY a couple of hours east of you and had the kind of student desk that still had an inkwell, or at least a hole, right in the middle of the top where it flattened out. The ink had not been there for some time, which was a good thing. The only thing I could have imagined doing with it (besides writing) would have been flipping it on the kid in front of me. Instead it made a fine minigolf hole.

My mom was also a lefty, elementary school in the 20's, and had the most beautiful Palmer Method cursive handwriting you ever saw. This was due to the standard practice of the times, which made all lefties write right-handed. Problem solved. My younger son (b. 1987) is also a lefty. If something is written in cursive, I usually have to translate for him. His "handwriting" would probably qualify him to be an MD, but he chose another career path.

Petri 6:41 PM  

Woof, also didn't understand the Grant clue, and I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Clever enough to appreciate once I understand it. Just not very enjoyable overall honestly. Felt like doing a book report. Not the most painful thing in the world, but something you just make yourself get done

trebore 7:20 PM  

Really tough for me. Started last night and got tired of staring at a lot of blanks;finished this afternoon. Well, not really-cheated a couple of times. Didja know Grant is on a $50 bill? So, who is buried in Grant's Tomb?

JOHN X 7:39 PM  

@trebore 7:20PM

Q:So, who is buried in Grant's Tomb?

A: No one is

BigJ 7:56 PM  


Fairly easy puzzle for a friday. Very Enjoyable solve!

Three Dog Night (the band) got thrown out, and banned from Louisville Ky for ten years! I forget exactly why, Drugs????
I fondly remember ink bottles from the Betty Boop cartoons with Koko the Clown.
Stay Safe and Enjoy! John.

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

@Richardf9, If you feel like it, could you please tell me what you were referring to in this sentence? It's an intriguing thought.

"They live in an eternal state of Basic Training in an eternal 1954 into which anachronistic tech occasionally fails.

I note that Brown v. the Board of Education decision was 1954. Thanks.

Greg 11:13 PM  


trebore 11:25 PM  

Good one.

CuppaJoe 2:58 PM  

This is one of the most hilarious ones yet, not the puzzle but Rex’s blurb. Classic, spot on, well worth my time.

Unknown 4:24 PM  

came here specifically because this puzzle was terrible. great, and affirming, review. thank you!

thefogman 10:34 AM  

Breezed through this one. Easiest Friday in quite some time for me. Very few erasures. Okay, but lacking a certain eclat.

spacecraft 12:02 PM  

A plethora of "This-could-be-anything" type clues made this harder than getting warm on a THREEDOG night. Mr. Wrenholt (whose byline I've never seen, but this is apparently NOT a debut) left a door open with BETO O'Rourke. Just off that, I wondered if Mr. High and Mighty might be HISNIBS. A little more work and the S/SW was done. USH is so desperate--but so cute I didn't mind.

The puzzle still took a long time to do, so triumph points piled up. I liked it. UKE/TOKE made me think of Tiny Tim...well, there's a minus, if you need one. No spillage from the INKBOTTLE today, thankfully.

DOD--a case in point for my recent critic--is (sadly) posthumously awarded to the inimitable TONI Morrison. As Shears said in the opening of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," May [s]he rest in peace. [S]he found little of it when [s]he was alive.

I don't know if I'm ready to elevate Mr. W to GODMODE, but I will look forward to his next byline. Eagle.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

Pisser infested cesspool. Sucked every bit of joy out of doing a crossword. Yuck!

Burma Shave 12:40 PM  


“HAR, HAR,” said the POODLE as he CUT through OUR FRONTYARD in a vile way


rondo 1:10 PM  

Odd that OFL found this challenging. I thought it easy and had no write-overs. THREEDOG is not ‘idiotic’; people actually *do* say it (especially in MN where it actually gets cold) and where do you think the band got its name? STAG at seasonal rut? Piece of cake. Same with HISNIBS, no ‘skin crawl’ here. For being so far left OFL should have the recycle codes down pat, not complain about the one for STEEL. So I’ll be a FOGY and say “OFL, get off my FRONTYARD”. AGAIN, I like Mr. Wrenholt’s STYLE.

Waxy in Montreal 1:30 PM  

This old FOGY thought this was one of the best ever Friday puzzles in the 25+ years I've been trying to solve them in the NYT. Lots of inspired misdirection resulting in many an AHA moment. Only real problem was with GODMODE (need to pick my grandson's mind more often) and not understanding until I got here how GRANT was a 50s president and who this dotty WILLIAM character is. Oh, yeah, 6A also COST me far too much time wrestling with the various meanings of "come to".

More John Wrenholt please!

Diana, LIW 2:18 PM  

Yes - what @Rondo said.

Loved GRANT for its "misdirect" (which I got right away), I've had many two-cat nights, so a THREEDOGer makes lots of sense (and yes, there is the band - duh).

Had TRaCK instead of TRUNK for a while (I don't skateboard) and bubble until it changed to POODLE. And I truly did check a world map for DHAKA, so that was a true cheat in my book.

But otherwise 'twas "easyish" for a Friday.

My grandpa originated the "get off my FRONTYARD" remonstration to the neighborhood kids, much to my chagrin.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for the sidewalk 'cause I won't walk on the grass, nor do I TOKE

rondo 2:18 PM  

@Z – odiferous? You are at least as off-base as OFL, with your list and all. More than a pair is a TRIO of some sort- doesn’t matter what; not knowing skateboard parts is your own dang fault, not the puzzle’s; POODLECUT, common knowledge; INFO *is* details; clue never said *movie* trailer, just go to youtube, which is the real world sort of way these days to see what is shared; M.O. = STYLE, you ever talk to anybody or just sit at home?; a FOGY resists change, if that’s not traditionalism, what is?; the clue reads “*Drama* at the Tonys”, the drama (not comedy) being the STAGEPLAY up for a Tony, you are so missing the actual wordplay there. No arched eyebrow nor ugh individually *or* collectively. Overcompensating for *low* PPP? Did you really write that? And who made you TRAILBOSS? Never saying anything to be an opinion, @Z’s word is truth? Fie.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

Worst word: BASSI

leftcoaster 4:13 PM  

Tough, tricky, and ultimately fair. Much enjoyed the solve; made me feel smart for a change.

The three-stack in the middle helped open things up, while the SW was a BASTiON of resistance. GRANT was a "50s president?" Buchanan would be surprised. So I guess U.S. Grant was in his 50s in the 1870s...something like that.

The USH, SYS, and EGG line-up was another place of some resistance, but it, too, had to fall. TRUCK and GOD MODE held their own in the North for awhile.

Challenging and fun overall. Thanks for the boost, Mr. Wrenholt.

rondo 4:31 PM  

@lefty - GRANT is on the $50 bill - so fifties

leftcoaster 7:24 PM  

@rondo -- right, got it, fooled me.

Anonymous 12:07 AM  

Got Naticked at 47D / 57A. But not the only reason for a dnf. Just not on the right wave length today. Probably could have finished if I had 5 hours to kill. And Z probably isn't listening since he did the puzzle on June 5.

willzimjohn 7:23 PM  

That's not what "sour grapes" means. It refers to a situation where you can't have something so you convince yourself that it wasn't worth having in the first place.

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